Animals have been constant companions, workers, and protectors at the side of humans for as long as anyone can remember. Horses help with travel, cats help keep mice out of the house, and dogs help herd cattle. However, the bond that can develop between four-legged animals and humans can be even more valuable than just helping get work done. A soldier coming home from war or a child scared to make friends can find solace and warmth in a special bond developed with animals through animal-assisted therapy. Animal-assisted therapy are therapy programs that involve using trained animals as a form of treatment to enhance an individual's physical, emotional and social well-being, thus improving self-esteem, reducing anxiety and facilitating healing ( source 1).
Animal-assisted therapy was first introduced in 1792 at a mental institute in England. From then on, many other institutes began experimenting with the therapy program to help treat certain disorders and in rehabilitation programs as some institutes. It was first introduced into programs in the United States in 1944 and since then has been growing in popularity as an effective way to aid in treatments (PDF 2). However, even with growing popularity, not much research has been done to conclusively confirm the measurable results and benefits of animal-assisted therapy. Through the research that has been conducted, it has, thus far, leaned to animal-assisted therapy being a reasonable and beneficial option for therapy.
Along with helping soldiers recover from post-traumatic stress and aiding in children becoming more confident, animal-assisted therapy also helps treat a variety of other health problems and mental disorders as well. For children, animals can take the role of becoming a friend or sibling, which allows for companionship that can help with attachment issues, social anxiety, grief, adjustment issues, and behavioral issues. While creating a calm environment for children, animals can also be used to teach responsibility and caring. For teenagers and adults, animals can act as a constant in their lives that relies on them and needs them which can help aid in eating disorders, anxiety, relationship problems, depression, grief, substance abuse, trauma, and emotional issues. In the elderly, who often feel alone and forgotten, the presence of an animal can aid in helping treat trauma, post-traumatic stress, depression, grief, loneliness, and adjustment issues. Also ADHD as well as autistic spectrum disorders like autism and asperger's syndrome can be treated with the aid of animal-assisted therapy. Any age group can benefit from the companionship of an animal. Animals creates a calming environment for people of all ages which helps in the healing process of health problems both physical and mental.
Depending on the type of experience wanted and well-being of the patient, animal-assisted therapy programs involving dogs and cats can be done on location at a hospital or home while other...